College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

AirPad receives gift from Rockwell Collins

AirPad, the Aerial Imaging Reconnaissance Program for Agricultural Development, will soon be able to reach a major milestone thanks to a significant gift from Rockwell Collins. The program is planning to design, build, and test an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for agricultural remote sensing in developing parts of the world.

“We have started fabricating a concept model, and this gift will help us finish that process,” said DJ Soults, president and founder of AirPad. Members are currently working on building an airframe and developing imaging components for the vehicle.

AirPad is a multi-disciplinary research-based student organization, with members’ majors including aerospace engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, biosystems engineering, finance, and psychology.

Soults says he decided to start the group after talking with Lloyd Le Page from Pioneer Hi-Bred, and determining there was a need for a more cost-effective and consistent way for farmers in developing areas to get a birds-eye view of their crops. “From there, I talked with some friends and the idea took off,” he said. He got connected with Rockwell Collins after meeting Greg Churchill, who gave a presentation for the Technology, Globalization, and Culture course in the fall of 2010, which led him to JR Skola, a systems engineer at the company.

Skola is helping the group stay on schedule and working with the electronics committee to give systems engineering advice. He also suggested the MicroINS system, which is a revolutionary advanced integrated INS/GPS/ADAHRS/flight controls system offered by Rockwell Collins.

“JR has been a great resource for our group, and Rockwell Collins has been extremely generous,” said Soults. “When we are ready for the MicroINS system, we’ll be able to purchase it from the company, and we’ll have guidance from JR as we continue to develop our program.”

At the beginning of April, AirPad presented a paper about their project at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Region V Student Conference. “The discussion after the presentation was motivating,” Soults said. “People thought we had a great idea with a solid foundation, so we are excited to move forward.”

The group is looking for new members to join the mechanical, electronics, relations, finance, or applications committees.

For more information, contact DJ Soults, AirPad president, at, or Nick Mathis, AirPad director of corporate relations, at